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Abstract

The term biodiversity itself was not coined until the 198os, when it was popularised by the eminent Harvard biologist Wilson. Biodiversity entails at the macro level ecosystemic diversity (ecosystems and landscapes), specific diversity (the species of plants, animals and micro-organisms that surround us) and at the micro level it includes genetic diversity. Although less marked than on other continents, Europe's systemic diversity displays a number of particular characteristics. However, Europeans should seriously fear for the future of their wildlife. Indeed, many wild fauna and flora species today are passing through a period of major crisis. As most natural or semi-natural, continental and coastal ecosystems are now undergoing significant modifications as a result of human activity (fiagmentation, isolation, intensification, ... ), animal and plant species are suffering an unprecedented rate of extinction. To make matters worse, this negative trend is compounded by an array of additional threats (poaching, excessive hunting, disturbance inflicted by tourism, collision of birds with power-lines). Last, on a more global scale, global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer risk precipitating much more profound changes to the distribution, structure and functions of European ecosystems. Given that this issue has been identified as a pressing concern by the EC institutions, the aim of the present article is to highlight the different strategies, plans and programs as well as the main directives and regulations that were enacted with the aim of conserving biodiversity.

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